Veronica Gritsenko is SOIL's long-term collaborator and mentor. Gritsenko first came across Myanmar culture in London and met a Buddhist monk in 1995. She then visited Myanmar with him in 1996 and fell in love with this extraordinary and beautiful country.
After Gritsenko completed her studies in Asian Arts at Sotheby's Institute and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1999, she went to Bagan for her MA dissertation on symbolism of Bagan temple architecture and she set her sights on lacquer arts tradition. She was in both marvel and sorrow that such a beautiful and ancient art form was in decline, being produced mostly for tourist market. In 2000, Gritsenko founded Black Elephant Studio lacquer workshop in Bagan, Myanmar. Eventually she developed her own unique technique based on ancient methods and materials and also created original designs and innovative methods of decoration.
Gritsenko has been invited to give lectures at the British Museum, Asia House in London and Asia Society in New York, USA as well as participating in conferences and exhibitions. In 2007, Gritsenko established an institute to help preserve ancient Myanmar lacquer art for future generations. Her works were acquired by the British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens Museum and Turquoise Mountain in the UK, as well as the Museum of Oriental Art in Turin, Italy.